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Planners eye expansion of existing monorail system

Date Posted: 2005-08-20

Amidst cries of its too short, Okinawa planners are studying options to expand the 13-kilometer monorail system that runs from Naha International Airport to Shuri.

Residents have been complaining since the monorail began operations two years ago that the route doesnt meet most needs. We need to expand the railroad more, is the battle cry from disgruntled patrons. The question now facing planners is how to make it better, and where to extend it.

Three options are now being explored, although several have potential flaws that may eliminate them from ever becoming reality. A Nishihara extension has been promoted widely, and the community has already asked the prefecture to budget money for the project. Nishihara residents want the monorail extended through their community to connect with the Okinawa Expressway via Route 241.

Another calls for using Route 29 to go to Nishihara, and a third calls for expansion in Naha. The 2006 construction budget is allocating funds to study and research the project with an eye to quickly moving from planning to construction.

It isnt as easy as it sounds, say planners. For the monorail to go over an existing highway, the highway must be wider than 25 meters. Route 82 is wider than that, while the others are not. Still, residents may not accept the plan because it feeds and promotes Naha City, and not Urasoe City or Nishihara Town.

Route 241 would be the longest construction project, spanning about three kilometers of work. An extension along Route 29 would cover about two kilometers, but neither road network connects to the Expressway. That is a problem according to planners, because money would have to first be allocated to buy land for the monorail, then additional funds to expand the road network itself.

Proponents say the Route 241 design is best right now, because it would extend from Shuri and Urasoe City and encompass Nishihara Town. Advocates say the route would add three stations and be done jointly with the bus depot expansion. Planners say it would be a big project involving park and drive locations, standard parking, a rental car office and a shopping mall.

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